Solon decries ‘midnight insertions’ in 2015 budget
MANILA, Philippines – Militant lawmaker decried the supposed “midnight insertions” in the proposed 2015 national budget, claiming that Malacañang meant to circumvent Congress so it could turn the budget to the president’s pork barrel.
In a radio interview, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) submitted a hundred page-errata report on Friday before the House approved the budget on second reading.
DBM’s errata was submitted to amend the National Expenditure Program, meant to reprioritize some projects, realign funds and impound savings without Congress’ approval and thus to convert the budget to the President’s pork barrel, Colmenares said.
“The errata contain reprioritization. It redefines savings. Reprioritization means pork. Any reprioritized project that did not undergo congressional scrutiny becomes President Aquino’s pork barrel,” Colmenares said.
“Why have Congress approved a budget if you are going to re-prioritize and term them as savings?” he added.
Colmenares said Congress should still debate the errata report on the floor, adding that with the errors Congress practically approved the wrong budget.
“The DBM admitted that it has errata on the approved budget. So we’re going to demand that the moment they insert the errata, these must be subject to deliberations again. We haven’t seen the errata. So we approved the wrong budget,” Colmenares said.
“That’s in fact a violation of the rules because we have already passed the budget on second reading yet there are errata that we don’t know anything about. The DBM kept the House in the dark. So it’s as good as if the second reading did not take place,” he added.
Act Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio also said the errata includes redefining savings so the President could still realign these despite the Supreme Court decision ruling the practice as illegal, pertaining to Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), a savings-impounding mechanism.
“We will oppose submission by the DBM of any amendments or revisions, in the guise of errata, that will be inserted into the General Appropriations Bill, especially since their so-called errata will include substantive changes to the definitions of savings, augmentation, and realignment of funds that will further strengthen the President’s discretion over public funds and effectively transform the whole budget into his pork barrel,” Tinio said in a text message.
For his part, House Appropriations committee chair Isidro Ungab said he has yet to read the errata report.
He added that as the usual practice, the chamber has tasked a small committee to tackle any amendments or errata to the budget.
“Rest assured that Congress will thoroughly and diligently review it and deal with this matter in accordance with law, rules and prevailing and recent jurisprudence of the Supreme Court on the same,” Ungab said in a text message.
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